How to decide if a Religion is true

Tough question, isnt it ? Everyone can give you thousands of answers but if you look deep down, nothing can be proved really.

Lets take an example:

Mormonism (The Church of Latter Day Saints) was founded by Joseph Smith, born 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. According to the official story of the LDS Church, in 1820 Smith was visited by God the Father and God the Son, after praying about which church he should join. He was told by Jesus, he should join none of them for they were “all wrong” and all the Christian church’s doctrines “were an abomination” (Joseph Smith – History 19, Pearl of Great Price). This First Vision was followed by several visits from an angel named Moroni who, in 1827, directed Smith to retrieve a set of Golden Plates which had been buried in a hill near Smith’s home in Palmyra, New York. Between 1827-1830, Smith, with the help of a mystical friend, translated the Golden Plates into the LDS scripture, the Book of Mormon. Published in 1830, this was to become the first of many scriptures for the Mormon Church. By this time, Smith had also officially organized the LDS Church and was gaining a following.

Problems with Joseph Smith’s claims:

The main point of interest here, is how Joseph Smith started his new church.

  • He claimed to have had a vision (“he was the only one to have had this vision“) that told him to start a new church with himself as the leader. (“How fortunate for Smith“)
  • He was told where to find the ‘golden plates’ that contained ‘the scriptures’ (“they just happened to be buried, by an ancient civilization, conveniently near his home in New York“)
  • He set out alone and ‘found’ them alone. (“No witnesses but you just got to believe his words“)
  • Once found, only he could translate them with the aid of a mystical device that only he was in possession of. (“Very fortunate of him, its like sitting on the hot seat of who wants to be a millionaire“)
  • Smith allowed no one else to see the plates and ‘translated’ them in secret from behind a screen. (“Okay, we’ve got the picture“)

Some Questions:

Joseph was most likely to be a fraud and so were Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (who started Ahmadiyya Movement) and Bahaullah (who started Bahai Faith) and Person x and Person y and him and him and the other one and so on. The list will just keep going on. Why ? because they all started religions based on the following reasons which doesnt fit with the logic and reasoning:

  • Discrimination: Why would God choose one particular person over others, I mean lets face it, I feel being discreminated. How come Joseph or Bahaullah was a better person compared to many others lived during their time ?
  • Racism: Quite similar to the above point. Why Joseph was given a vision and not a person living in a small, dark, old fashioned village in Africa ?
  • Vision: You and I have at least few dreams almost every week. What makes the dreams of Joseph a special dream which needs to be seen as a Vision ? Just because he could relate God’s divine words in his dreams ? so what, anyone can have such dreams.
  • No evidence: thats the hardest one, what proof we had about his co called Visions, Gold Plates ? but hang on, this raises some more serious questions. What proof Moses gave about his claims that he went up to the hill and met God in person ? What proof he gave that the book he came back with was indeed a Divine book and not something he was busy writing himself on that mountain ?

You really got to be a person with absolutely no brains to believe in anything that Joseph Smith told you. But the question is that if he was wrong / fake / false, what about others in history ?

One thought on “How to decide if a Religion is true

  1. Raheel. I appreciate the sentiment, and agree that many “religions” may be nothing more than someone’s grasp for followers or power.

    However, a few comments:
    (1) You picked possibly the easiest target. It works for illustrative purposes, but the parallel falls short in many ways.
    (2) Regarding the “discrimination” section, whenever someone is picked, everyone else can say “why not me?”
    (3) Regarding racism, let’s say a religion was given to a middle-easter group, relatively small in number, formerly enslaved and despised by their captors. Would that be better?
    (4) What if the vision was shared by 3 million people? Would this be enough?
    (5) Regarding evidence, there can be historical supporting evidence, and evidence of something greater in continued existence despite extreme odds and opposition. Neither of these are easily discounted.

    The last three are all true of a specific people / way of life, by the way.

    I actually agree with the gist of your post – religion is often a convenient tool to manipulate and control the masses, and to otherwise gain personal benefit. But because many of the apples in the barrel are bad, it doesn’t mean that there is surely none that are good (or that the orange in the sack next to the barrel is the same).

    All the best.
    -Y

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